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332                  JOURNEYS IN KURDISTAN        LETTER xxs

as of their clothing and money. The ascent and the very
tedious descent of the Kasrik Kala Pass brought us into
the large and fertile plain of Haizdar, the " plain of the
Armenians/' sprinkled with Armenian villages, and much

Mirza and one zaptieh had gone back for a blanket
which had been dropped, and after halting in an orchard
till I was half-frozen I decided to proceed without them,
having understood that we could reach Van in three hours.
I started my party by signs, and after an hour's riding
reached a village where Johannes spoke fluently in an
unknown tongue, and the zaptieh held up five fingers,
which I learned too late meant that Van was five hours
off. I thought that they were asking for instructions,
and at every pause I repeated Van.

After a brief consultation we went up among the
hills, the young Kurdish Jcatirgi jumping, yelling, singing,
and howling, to keep his mules at a trot, the zaptieh
urging them with his whip, and pointing ominously at
the fast sinking sun. On we clattered with much noise,
nor did we slacken speed till we gained a high altitude
among desert solitudes, from which we looked down upon
the Dead Sea of Van, a sheet of water extending in one
direction beyond the limits of vision, lying red and
weird, with high mountains jutting into it in lofty head-
lands hovered over by flame-coloured clouds. High up
along the mountain side in a wavy line lay the path to
Van in the deepening shadows, and the zaptieh, this time
holding up three fingers, still urged on the caravan, and
the Kurd responded by yells and howls, dancing and
jumping like a madman.

Just as it was becoming dark, four mounted men, each
armed with two guns, rode violently among the mules,
which were in front of me, and' attempted to drive them
off. In the mtUe the Jcatirgi was knocked down. The